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Why Some Bible Reading Plans Can Actually Be Harmful

It has been a couple of years since I suggested that the famous reading plan of a certain famous Christian was not a good idea. (If you want to see that post, click here.) That plan, and many that have copied it, involves reading a small handful of chapters each day. The chapters are from different places in the canon. I know some people swear by this approach, but I am unconvinced. Here’s why:

1. Why treat the Bible chapters as vitamin pills rather than part of a coherent feast? Why pursue “balance” with a passion, but sacrifice the divine design? God gave us books, not an assortment of random chapters.

2. Why choose to not read chapters in their context? Esther is hard to put down, so is Ephesians, and Hebrews always grips me, and there are over 60 other books, most of which are an awesome read in flow. Why take a bit of one meal and then a bite of another?

3. Why miss out on the delight of noise-free reading? For the first minutes of our Bible reading, perhaps 10-15, we have a mental noise in the background: things to do, don’t forget this, remember that, what about … . Once that clears, we zero in and enjoy what we are reading. Read for 10 minutes and you will be ready to stop. Read for 30-40 and you will struggle to put it down. Most reading plans cater to 10- to 12-minute reading loads. So you could struggle year after year with these disciplined approaches, but absolutely thrive on the simple approach of reading a decent chunk in flow. Really? People who struggle to read the Bible through in a year may find it easier and more enjoyable to read it two or three times in a year? Yes.

4. Why take a checklist approach to the most important relationship? I don’t have to force myself to read sports news or eat three meals a day, and certainly don’t require a checklist to remember to interact with my wife each day. I don’t tend to be impressed with reticent disciplined Bible readers. But those who delight in God tend to be people who devour the Bible. That may look like discipline, love usually does, but discipline is not the way to get there.

Perhaps it is worth pondering how to encourage people by enthusiastic invitation, rather than by affirming the “difficulty” and “trudgery” of “getting through the Bible” in a year or three. Here is a link to my friend Ron’s article on Bible reading—as “Bible presenters,” let’s be sure to be genuine Bible enthusiasts that do more than try to fire up the so-called disciplined wills of our listeners!  

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Peter Mead is involved in the leadership team of a church plant in the UK. He serves as director of Cor Deo—an innovative mentored ministry training program—and has a wider ministry preaching and training preachers. He also blogs often at BiblicalPreaching.net and recently authored Pleased to Dwell: A Biblical Introduction to the Incarnation (Christian Focus, 2014).